- Created on 31 October 2013
Keshia Thomas (pictured below center), a Black woman who protected a White man at a Ku Klux Klan rally back in 1996, recently recalled her act, according to BBC News.
"I knew what it was like to be hurt," Thomas said. "The many times that, that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me."
Thomas was 18 years old, when Klansmen decided to hold a rally in Ann Arbor, Mich., her hometown. Known for being a heavily liberal and multiracial area, hundreds of residents gathered in a show of force against the group.
Though officers protected the White supremacists with riot gear and protesters were held behind a fence, the rally soon turned hostile. A woman holding a megaphone reportedly noticed a White man among them wearing a confederate T-shirt. She reportedly notified protesters who then proceeded to chase him from the crowd.
Though it's not known if the man was a Klan member, protesters allegedly yelled, "Kill the Nazi," before knocking him down. They reportedly began attacking him with wooden sticks from their signs.
For Thomas, the situation had clearly gotten out of hand.
"When people are in a crowd, they are more likely to do things they would never do as an individual. Someone had to step out of the pack and say, 'This isn't right.'" she said.
Consequently, Thomas threw herself over the man, protecting him from further harm.
Then-student photographer Mark Brunner, who witnessed Thomas' actions, was amazed.
"She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her," he said. "Who does that in this world?"
According to Thomas, "Violence is violence — nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea." Now in her 30s, Thomas has never heard from the man, but she did have an encounter with someone close to him: Months after the gesture, a man reportedly approached her in a coffee shop and thanked her. When she asked why, he said, "That was my dad."
Knowing the man had a son put things in even greater perspective for Thomas. "For the most part, people who hurt...they come from hurt. It is a cycle. Let's say they had killed him or hurt him really bad. How does the son feel? Does he carry on the violence?"
Now living in Texas, Thomas says she is looking toward the future and not her past.
"I don't want to think that this is the best I could ever be. In life you are always striving to do better." she said. "The biggest thing you can do is just be kind to another human being. It can come down to eye contact or a smile. It doesn't have to be a huge monumental act."
- Created on 30 October 2013
Lake Providence, Louisiana (CNN) -- "You have to sit back and think why is God keeping this town alive?
"If we're the poorest and we have the highest unemployment and crime rate, why doesn't God just say I'm going to wipe this town off the map? Because he knows that, in a couple years, something big is going to happen for Lake Providence.
"He's waiting for us to start to believe in ourselves."
That's 18-year-old Frededreia Willis, one of the many amazing people I met in Lake Providence, Louisiana, which is the American capital of income inequality. East Carroll Parish, where Lake Providence is located, has a wider gap
- Created on 29 October 2013
FILE - This Oct. 1, 2013 file photo shows actress Julianne Hough at the 20th Annual "FFANY Shoes on Sale" Gala presented by QVC and FFANY in New York. Hough apologized on Twitter amid criticism for darkening her skin for a costume as Crazy Eyes from "Orange is the New Black" at a Hollywood bash. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Is donning blackface to dress up as a favorite TV character ever OK for Halloween?
How about a bloody hoodie and blackface for a costume riff on the slain teen Trayvon Martin, or full-on minstrel at a splashy Africa-themed party for the fashion elite in Milan?
Each of those costumes made headlines this Halloween season. And the answer to each, African studies and culture experts said, is never.
"The painful history of minstrelsy is not that long ago for us to think that now, somehow, we can do it differently or do it better," said Yaba Blay, co-director of Africana Studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Julianne Hough found that out the hard way. She apologized on Twitter over the weekend amid criticism for darkening her skin for a costume as Crazy Eyes from "Orange is the New Black" at a Hollywood bash.
Hough explained on Twitter: "I am a huge fan of the show Orange is the New black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize."
There's a fine line between mockery and tribute — and it's a line that blackface has the power to obliterate, said Marita Sturken, professor of media, culture and communication at New York University.
"It's never something very simple, and if you're going to don a costume and put on a black face there's no possibility of nuance there," she said. "It doesn't matter that it was a character from a TV show. That doesn't get her off the hook. If she's going to put some substance on her face, that constitutes blackface and this incredibly complicated history gets evoked."
Historically, blackface emerged in the mid-19th century, representing a combination of put-down, fear and morbid fascination with black culture, said Eric Lott, an American studies professor at City University of New York's graduate center. Among the most prominent examples: Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor.
"It's constantly a form of entertainment that backs itself into all kinds of trouble, whether political trouble around slavery or a kind of mental trouble having to do with fantasizing about black people," said Lott, who wrote the 1993 book "Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy & the American Working Class."
As for Hough, he said: "It's just a stupid thing to do. It's a racist thing to do. What blackface does is give the white people privilege of representing black people, of taking black images and treating them as a thing owned."
Kelsey Crowe, who teaches social work in San Francisco, has been following the fracas on Facebook. She sees more tribute to Crazy Eyes than hatred in Hough's costume. Other recent examples are far more troubling, she said.
"Trayvon Martin, that's awful," Crowe said of two Florida men whose photo circulated on social media ahead of Halloween on Thursday.
One was in blackface with a simulated bloody bullet hole at the chest and the other simulated a gun to the head of the faux 17-year-old while dressed as George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon in Florida and was acquitted in court.
She was also "not into" the minstrel costumes in Milan. But the look for Hough "didn't strike me as exploitative at all," she said.
"In other cases blackface is used to make fun of people. I really saw this as a way to embody a character that you like," said Crowe, who will be a cat for Halloween with her 3-year-old daughter.
"Everybody likes the character of Crazy Eyes," she added, "but I guess that could be said of Aunt Jemima, too."
What if the "Rock of Ages" singer, dancer and actress had eliminated blackface from the equation, keeping her simulation of the Bantu knotted hairstyle worn by the character, along with the orange prison jumpsuit she and her friends zipped on as a posse of female inmates from the Netflix series?
"Yes, leave the skin color alone. Leave the stereotypical performance of it and I would imagine to some degree that could be middle ground," Blay said. "People dress up as other people all the time. That's what happens at Halloween. But she didn't do that. And as far as Trayvon, no. Never."
- Created on 28 October 2013
California’s oldest university just named its first black homecoming king and queen.
Seniors Daniel Harris-Lucas and Diana Busaka were crowned Thursday night at San Jose State University, beating out 22 other applicants who all submitted a nomination, two letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a resumé and newsclips about them.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Harris-Lucas told NBC Bay Area. “But it’s probably overdue. I’m glad to be part of history. But this probably should have happened years ago.”
SJSU first caught national attention at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when two of its students, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, placed in the 200 meter race and raised their black-gloved fists in the iconic black power salute. A statue of them stands on the SJSU campus today.
While the homecoming judging panel noted that there has been an black queen before, this is the first year there has been a couple.
Occupational therapy major Busaka was born in Kenya and public relations major Harris-Lucas grew up in foster care and has mentored youth in Oakland.